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Preventing water crises
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Preventing water crises

Lost treasure: are water shortages a global or a local problem?

24 years ago, the UN designated June 17th as World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. The importance and the relevance of the topic is marked by the fact that water shortage is one of the main themes of this year’s greatest event in diplomacy, the Budapest Water Summit 2019.

Today, the problem has become extremely pressing: according to latest news reports, hundreds of villages are being evacuated in central India due to heat waves and drought that impact at least eight million farmers. In the meantime, the spread of deserts is jeopardising the livelihood of over 1 billion people, including almost all of Europe’s Mediterranean countries, and according to estimates, up to 700 million people may be forced to leave their homes due to the lack of land suitable for agriculture by 2050.

According to Prof András Szöllősi-Nagy, Chair of the International Programme and Drafting Committee of the Budapest Water Summit 2019, still not many people are aware that the issue of water has become one of the highest priorities at the international level in the 21st century.

The UN designated June 17 the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought 24 years ago Photo: Shutterstock

How many types of drought are there?

The phenomenon most people simply know as drought is classified by specialists in six categories:

  • 1. Meteorological drought is the one we all recognise: periods with little precipitation. But the length of that period is important: it only counts as drought if the amount of precipitation remains below 60 percent of the maximum normal value for two years.
  • 2. Agricultural drought: this is when due to low or irregular precipitation, plants are unable to absorb sufficient amounts of water, causing significant damage to agriculture. Globally, over 75 percent of all land areas suffer soil deterioration today due to insufficient precipitation, and according to an estimate from the EU’s Joint Research Centre, the figure could increase to 90 percent by 2050.
  • 3. Atmospheric drought is the situation when due to the high, over 30 °C temperature and low vapour content of the air, evaporation is so fast that vegetation cannot increase it any more, even though there is still sufficient water in the soil.
  • 4. Physiological drought usually occurs in early spring, when, due to the low temperature of the soil, the roots of plants cannot absorb enough water.
  • 5. Hydrological drought occurs when the water levels or yields of rivers, springs, lakes, reservoirs, groundwater and aquifers are reduced significantly.
  • 6. Finally, socioeconomic drought happens when water shortages cause damage on a scale that threatens the economy of a region and the livelihood of its people.
While the general public simply refers to drought, specialists distinguish up to six different types of the phenomenon Photo: Shutterstock

The poor must fight for every drop of water in India

The Indian water shortage resulting from unprecedented drought intensifies already significant social inequality.

The UN is worried about climate apartheid

Philip Alston, a UN expert on human rights claims that the world will soon face the risk of climate apartheid, as we are progressing towards a future in which only the rich will have the opportunity to escape the negative consequences of global warming while the poor suffer from the heat and famines.

Temperatures in Israel increase by 0.25 degrees Celsius per decade

According to a study published in the International Journal of Climatology, Israel’s average temperature has been rising continuously since the proclamation of the Middle Eastern state in 1948, but over the last thirty years the rate of warming has also increased.

What will become of you, Africa?

We have known for some time that a number of countries in Africa are particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming on account of their positions alone. A recent study warns that the situation is even worse than we had previously thought.

Crisis: millions hit by water shortages in India

In some parts of southern India, the water situation has become critical: in Chennai, a city with five million inhabitants and the capital of Tamil Nadu state (and the country’s sixth largest city) there has been a water shortage for weeks.

Wild animals auctioned in Namibia because of drought

The lack of rain early this year has resulted in the most severe drought in the history of Namibia: the government declared a state of emergency in May. Five hundred thousand people are at the risk of not having enough food, not to mention the domestic and wild animals in the region.

Crisis in South Sudan caused by drought

Up to 7 million people may reach a hopeless food situation in the East African country according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Warming can directly affect the risk of armed conflicts

A new study published in Nature, authored by 11 internationally recognised experts on climate and military conflicts has looked at the impact of the global increase in temperature on the incidence of armed conflicts.

Disappearing lakes

Large lakes that have dried up and disappeared are among the saddest and most spectacular signs of global warming. Where a lake dries out, it is not only water that disappears: it is only a matter of time before wildlife, plants, animals, and then people, cultures and living communities are also extinguished.

Freshwater acidify due to carbon dioxide emission

Many studies warn us that rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere caused by the burning of fossil fuels is making the oceans grow acidic, a major threat to marine life. Comparatively less attention has been paid to freshwater ecosystems from that perspective...

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